Faced with a growing brain drain triggered by the US-China trade and technology disputes, Taiwanese high-tech companies this year have stepped up efforts to broaden the nation’s talent pool by forming deeper partnerships with universities and even high schools, and offering incentives and programs to those studying artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G technologies.
A shortage of qualified engineers and other professionals has been a long-standing problem for local companies. In the early 2000s, their allocation of production to developing countries with cheaper labor costs, primarily China, helped spur an outflow of talent, one that grows more acute each year, given Taiwan’s rapidly graying population.
Geopolitical tensions have compounded the issue, such as the US slapping new export restrictions on China’s biggest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. Such restrictions are also serving to spur China’s efforts to reduce its reliance on imported semiconductors and equipment and become more self-sufficient.
Beijing has set an ambitious goal of having 70 percent of chip manufacturing equipment produced by Chinese companies, which means that it will need a lot of professionals and experts from other nations to reach that goal.
Poaching talent from Taiwan is the easiest and most convenient solution, and is something Chinese companies have been doing for years by offering to pay triple or quadruple the salaries electrical engineers and computer talent can earn in Taiwan.
However, Taiwanese companies are beginning to fight back by working together to develop a better-educated talent pool and halt the loss of employees to their cross-strait rivals.
SEMI Taiwan, an industry association, last week inked a memorandum of understanding with 104 Corp, which operates the nation’s largest online human resources agency, to cooperate in organizing job fairs and talent matchmaking conferences.
The agency receives about 20,000 job listings from Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers each month, but can barely fill the demand, 104 Corp senior vice president Jason Chin (晉麗明) said, attributing the shortage to a mismatch between the nation’s education system and industrial development.
The agency said it is considering working with high schools and elementary schools as well as tertiary-level institutions to offer semiconductor-related programs instead of just internships to help meet the growing demand for workers and management.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) last month said it would double its recruitment of engineers this year to 8,000 people, and as of this month, it began offering semiconductor courses at six universities, including National Taiwan University and National Cheng Kung University, to help train advanced technology engineers.
TSMC is not the only one. Memorychip maker Macronix International Co in June donated NT$420 million (US$14.37 million) to National Cheng Kung University for a new building to house the Miin Wu School of Computing, which is to focus on AI-related education, and promised to provide the new school with NT$100 million a year over the next 10 years.
AU Optronics Corp, Compal Electronics Co and Wistron Corp last year joined forces to establish an association to foster training better suited to industry needs, and the association has offered 231 internships at 14 companies.
It is also organizing on-site and online forums at National Cheng Kung and Tunghai universities next month to inform students about industry trends, the association said yesterday.
These efforts to develop a better-educated workforce are crucial as China and Southeast Asian nations begin to compete against Taiwan for a greater role in global supply chains.
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